Al Qaeda and its affiliates control more territory now than they ever have and are using that space — as previously done in Afghanistan — to plan and prepare attacks against the U.S. and U.S interests. The House Foreign Affairs Committee, of which I am a member, has held multiple hearings to examine al Qaeda's resurgence in Iraq and its threat to regional and global security.
President Obama repeatedly has conveyed that al Qaeda is "on the run" and has been "decimated." However, for months, al Qaeda and its affiliates have been increasing their presence and attacks in Iraq, neighboring Syria and elsewhere in the region.
Having served in Iraq as commander of a large task force, I personally witnessed the courage and sacrifice of our troops in Iraq. As U.S. forces withdrew in 2011, however, President Obama's administration failed to negotiate an agreement with Iraq that could have allowed a limited U.S. military presence to help the Iraqis keep al Qaeda from filling the power vacuum created by the withdrawal.
Even without the agreement, the president should have done something to support Iraqi counterterrorism capabilities; instead, America quickly turned its attention away from Iraq and, in the past two years, allowed al Qaeda and its affiliates to grow rapidly in both Iraq and Syria.
The administration has stated that the turmoil in the region is a threat only to our regional interests and not our homeland. I'm deeply troubled that in just 13 years after 9/11, this administration already has forgotten what preceded those attacks — al Qaeda establishment of a sanctuary in Afghanistan.
This wasn't just a "regional issue" back then, and developments in the Middle East are not just regional problems now. What al Qaeda had in Afghanistan was nothing compared the situation now in Syria and Iraq, where a variety of terrorist organizations control large amounts of land and natural resources and have amassed heavy weaponry.
American service men and women have served and sacrificed to prevent al Qaeda from establishing a sanctuary from which to plan and launch attacks against the U.S., as it did from Afghanistan in 2001. Claims that these developments impact only our regional interests, but not our safety here at home are pure fantasy — as the attacks of 9/11 painfully and tragically alerted us.
U.S. and European intelligence officials were recently quoted in the New York Times revealing that al Qaeda already has "carved out enough space and influence to begin building the apparatus to conduct attacks outside of Syria," which includes recruiting terrorists to carry out attacks in the U.S. The same applies to Iraq or anywhere else al Qaeda is able to establish a safe haven.
President Obama likes to take credit for, "ending the war in Iraq;" however, he did precisely the opposite. By failing to withdraw responsibly, he left a power vacuum in the region that al Qaeda swiftly and forcefully filled, ensuring the potential for further conflict. In essence, he didn't end the war; he gave our hard-earned victory to the enemy and actually lost the war.
I'm also very concerned about our ability to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan in a way that avoids similar mistakes. I recently returned from a bipartisan congressional delegation trip to Afghanistan. Negotiations with the Afghan government over an agreement that could allow a limited U.S. military counterterrorism presence to remain in that country after 2014 currently are stalled. If this administration again fails to reach an agreement allowing a critical, stabilizing force in Afghanistan, we'll create yet another power vacuum — but this time in al Qaeda's traditional sanctuary where Islamist militants and terrorists likely will thrive again.
President Obama has shown a propensity to prioritize political expediency over national security. Contrary to the president's assertions, al Qaeda is resurgent and has established control over large swaths of territory — but this time, thousands of miles closer to Europe and the United States.
Millions of Americans and allied troops have served bravely and selflessly in Iraq and Afghanistan; thousands have sacrificed their lives; and thousands more carry emotional, psychological and physical scars. This administration has squandered their sacrifices while continuing to risk the lives of millions of other service members and citizens while putting ourselves at greater risk to terrorist attacks than ever before.
— Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Perry represents the 4th District, which includes York County.